The United Nations agency tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees is facing extraordinary demands under very challenging circumstances, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, urging the international community to step up so that five million people can receive the help they need.
“Let me be clear: the demands placed on UNRWA today are unprecedented,” Mr. Ban said at a meeting of supporters of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
“At a time of great turbulence in the Middle East, we need your commitment to intensify support for UNRWA and its crucial work on behalf of vulnerable Palestine refugee communities in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.”
Mr. Ban emphasized that due to the current situation in the region, UNRWA is not just providing assistance to refugees but managing crises affecting all of its areas of operation. It is helping more than half a million Palestine refugees registered in Syria. However, because of the Syrian conflict, over half of them are internally displaced, while 60,000 others have fled to Lebanon and Jordan.
UNRWA is also alleviating poverty and distress in Gaza, where more than half the population of 1.7 million people depends on food assistance from the Agency to survive.
Mr. Ban thanked international donors, who provide 97 per cent of UNRWA’s funding, while adding that much more is needed to keep the Agency afloat.
“UNRWA faces a funding deficit on its basic programmes of $50 million. This deficit will double next year, calling into question UNRWA’s future ability to provide basic services to refugees,” Mr. Ban said, noting that some of the Agency’s services have already been cut.
Participants at the Special Meeting of a Group of Supporters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
“For example, the Agency can no longer make small support payments that helped the poorest refugees in Gaza and the West Bank. This is contributing to a heightened sense among Palestine refugees that the international community is abandoning them,” Mr. Ban said.
He called on donors to sustain their efforts and, whenever possible, enhance their support for UNRWA. In particular, he urged members of the League of Arab States to fulfil their commitment to fund 7.8 per cent of the costs of UNRWA’s basic programmes.
“If this were realized on a sustained basis, UNRWA would be in a much more stable financial position. I urge you to back UNRWA with concrete pledges today or very soon after this meeting,” Mr. Ban said.
Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, stated prior to the meeting that the Agency cannot sustain its services to refugees unless all donors step up.
“We are $54 million short this year and next year will be worse. We are, in particular, looking to Arab donors to reaffirm and move forward on their engagement to achieve the 7.8 per cent target for Arab Government contributions to UNRWA’s core budget previously set in Arab League resolutions,” he said.
“In these present volatile conditions in the region, it seems highly desirable to reinforce UNRWA as an important contributor to stability.”